There are a couple new happy hours at some pretty fancy spots in Mid-City West and West Hollywood launching today. With weather in Los Angeles warming up as much as it has recently, it doesn’t get much better than these refreshing libations and succulent bites on the terrace or patio to begin your night.
Single or not, you won’t find me exactly chomping at the bit to try any sort of prix fixe menu on, of all nights, Valentine’s Day, only the busiest dining night out all year. A night of fighting the crowds of twosomes to order up one of the multitude of prix fixe menus during a potentially service-distastrous evening is not something I can recommend to you in good conscience, so why pretend? Anniversaries and birthdays are as great as the dates they land on are unique to each couple or person, so when a calendar designates that one particular day is the day everyone is to express one’s affection to his/her significant other, I can’t help but get a little bit apprehensive.
Here are a few fun alternatives to Valentine’s Day that take that icky obligatory feeling out of your profession of love…
Petrossian, at least in West Hollywood and beyond, has essentially become synonymous with caviar as its flagship Los Angeles restaurant serves wide-ranging clientele in its white-soaked dining room, one caviar-enhanced meal to the next. As Chef Giselle Wellman continues to tinker with the always-excellent, savory-focused menu, she has decided to do something a little different in regards to the more casual, often-ignored boutique and patio area of the restaurant. In the daytime, the beautiful boutique is flooded with daylight, with artful floral arrangements decorating high tops and a cushy, long booth lining the inside front wall.
Caviar is often intimidating to those not yet inducted, but in Petrossian’s quest to make all things caviar-palatable, perhaps the omnipresence of its signature ingredient on the menu has ironically become a barrier, of sorts. There lacked a menu that was evidence that the brand – in its dining room incarnation, at least – was content to not beat the ingredient to death by proving its compatibility with everyday dishes.
If there could exist a niche to fill in between lunch, happy hour and dinner at Petrossian, the newly-launched boutique and patio menu of small plates does exactly that. Because small plates are just the thing for us non-committal diners these days. Of course, this doesn’t detract from the elegance of the dinner menu nor the lightness of the lunch menu – nor the introductory nature of the happy hour menu, that is. There’s a perfect mid-day vibe to this menu, what with vegetables and fruit matching the vibrance and breeziness of the boutique and patio without sacrificing any of the taste.
It’s hard to complain about the asparagus, which turned up perfectly cooked and seasoned. I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who has said “I hate burrata,” but the apricots, basil and prosciutto make for lovely complements. The nice touch that Giselle brought to the already-delicious olive plate is that she warms the conconction up. You can bite through the tangy-sweet orange peels, while wondering why everyone doesn’t heat up their olive appetizers.
The morels that accompany the farm egg are the menu’s savory sweet spot while the sweet peas are just the perfect sweet touch – and truth be told, I really just can’t get enough of runny eggs. Win-win. The caviar aioli to the pomme frites are basically as “bar food” as you get in the place – but what an excellent version, at that.
And of course, it’s impossible to ignore the Mussels, Fig & Brie sandwiches and Prime Flat Iron Steak Crostinis. The Fig & Brie, with its delicious walnut bread, is like the Thanksgiving you missed last November (because we’d all pick this over Turkey Club leftovers). The garlic aioli atop the uber tender Prime Flat Iron Steak cuts is just the perfect touch. The Mussels are also solid, with the broth being one of those things you just wish was a soup.
You can order from this menu on Mondays through Saturdays from 5 – 11 PM while seated in the boutique or patio – but not the dining room. And if you happen to be there before 7 o’clock on a weekday, you may as well scope their happy hour drink menu as well, including the Caviar Martini.
After all, you’ll want to complement your small plates with a little – or a lot – of caviar.
All food and cocktails were hosted.
Truffle Oil, Parmesan, Pine Nuts, Lemon
Apricots, Basil, Prosciutto
House Pickled Vegetables
Cucumber, Cauliflower, Carrots, Pear Onion, Fresno Chili
Citrus and Herb Marinated Olives, Grilled Baguette
Morels, Fava Beans, Peas, Baguette
Soy Sesame Vinaigrette, Chives, Caviar
Prince Edward Island Mussels
Saffron, White Wine, Fresno Chili, Parsley, Grilled Bread
Trout Roe, Salmon Roe, Caviar
Fig and Brie
Walnut Bread, Arugula, Honey
Prime Flat Iron Crostinis
Watercress, Caramelized Onion, Garlic Aioli
Last month, I was asked by Dine LA, a non-profit subsidiary of the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau and coordinator of LA Restaurant Week, to shoot a little video on featuring a few restaurants around town. Honored by the consideration, I accepted, and had quite a fun time being driven around in a brand-new Acura TSX Wagon (with Acura being sponsor of the project).
We visited Petrossian on Robertson in West Hollywood, Street by Susan Feniger in Hancock Park and Church & State in Downtown L.A. – all of which you have no doubt seen mentioned here on the blog and in my tweets. It was such a pleasure to work with Carrie Kommers, director of the video and of Dine LA, and Evan Romoff, the DP (that is, Director of Photography) and editor – both of whom put me at ease and helped break my “professionally produced” video cherry. We had lots of laughs, bloopers and takes. I had quite a time avoiding “um’s” in the audio. And really, all the credit goes to Evan, the editor, who made me look and sound pretty decent, despite my failure to reapply some mid-day makeup. 😉
The other night, I again had the privilege of visiting Petrossian on Robertson – the caviar boutique that doubles as a dining hotspot with a clean and casual ambiance. I know the space well from my numerous visits to Chef Benjamin Bailly and have even had the honor of judging a cold soup Dine LA Quickfire ChallengeÂ (recap) held in the boutique area.
But things have changed since the end of Chef Bailly’s year-long tenure as Executive Chef. He has moved on to Fraiche in Culver City and now, Giselle Wellman has taken over the kitchen. She has some big names on her resume, including New York’s Del Posto and most recently Beverly Hills’ Bouchon. Armed with just a basic pasta recipe by Tony DiSalvo, she taught herself how to make 20 kinds of pasta at his Jack’s La Jolla for the purposes of its reopening as an Italian restaurant – quite a feat that would be perfected by working in Mario Batali’s kitchen thereafter.
And the agnolotti that I had at Petrossian happened to be my favorite dish of the evening. The house-made pasta was tender and the filling was perfectly cooked – with fontina being one of my favorite cheeses, of course. The pasta was topped with perfect prosciutto, accompanied by fresh asparagus and extremely flavorful mushrooms while finished off with a further savory, non-frivolous parm foam. Everything in this dish worked together extremely well in no small part by top-notch ingredients and good execution. Not bad for a chef in her new kitchen. (She still has Ben’s pistachio creme for the Pistachio Creme Brulee.)
My second favorite dish of the evening was the Smoked Sturgeon Risotto with pressed caviarÂ cooked into the dish in order to fully integrate the eggs’ flavors. The topping of slicedÂ apple slices was an elegant, sweet reprieve from the rich risotto. Everything on the plate made for a really delicious combination while the risotto itself was amazingly complex in its richness. If I weren’t so full, I might have licked the plate.
Of course, we had to have dessert and with a vendor like Petrossian and their delicious chocolates, it’d be premature to leave their dining room without having done so. Giselle was especially excited about her on-theme espresso pearls, which, of course, look like caviar. She showed us a video of her making them byÂ droppingÂ theÂ espressoÂ mixture into clear liquid with an eye-dropper. The result?Â A glorious topping to spread over panna cotta.
The beads weren’t especially potent but they were indeed novel and well, espresso goes extremely well with vanilla. The cardamom shortbreads had good spice and were a nice, crunchy side note. This is definitely my go-to dessert at Petrossian.
Overall, I was impressed with Giselle’s new but solid menu – especially given that she just moved in a few weeks ago. It seems like she’s fitting in well into the space at Petrossian and will continue to evolve in that space, given her unbridled passion for cooking. I can’t wait to revisit to try more dishes, which she’ll have time to perfect. The blogger-friendly boutique-restaurant hybrid has great things to look forward to.
Also, Petrossian is participating in Dine LA (going through Friday this week and Sunday – Friday, January 30 – February 4 next week). Fortunately, the risotto, agnolotti and espresso panna cotta I’ve mentioned are all on that menu so this is the opportune time to try them out.
All food and wine were hosted.